From stuffy to hip: How the Charlotte Business Guild plans to move forward



Teresa Davis sipped her beer in the orange-lit bar of the Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel. The second-term president of the Charlotte Business Guild, an organization for LGBT business owners and professionals that meets once a month, was winding down after the guild's 20th Anniversary Gala on Saturday.

But Davis, 50, was not too tired to say goodnight to one guest. She stood up to hug Vince, a young African-American man, before he left.

"I hope you're going to continue to be involved," she told him. "We want to see you around."

  • David Lari
  • Davis

That night, guild members elected 11 instead of its usual six board of directors for 2012-2013 to include more LGBT professionals in their 20s and 30s. Since most members are in their 40s and older, the guild hopes younger board members with graphic design and social-media savvy will increase the organization's visibility in the local LGBT community.

"A lot of their marketing stuff is kind of outdated," said Alyssa Kibiloski, 24, a first-time board member and co-founder of the graphic design business Create-ster. "There's a disconnect and it's not just the Charlotte Business Guild, but in the LGBT community."

The guild recently finished the first-ever electronic survey of how LGBT-owned and operated businesses affect Charlotte's economy. Earlier this year, the guild applied for a grant through the Gay and Lesbian Fund to conduct the survey.

The survey was supposed to be done before the Democratic National Convention in September but instead wrapped at the gala, where a laptop was available for people to input their last-minute answers. A researcher at UNC Charlotte will organize the results in a report.

"We've run into some things where folks are saying there isn't an LGBT presence, there's no market for this," said gild Vice President Amanda Breeden, 30. "We'll be able to say absolutely there is [a market] and here's data to back it, but also to unify the [overall Charlotte business] community and say, we're here, we have this economic impact."

After Davis said goodbye to Vince, she told me the guild was even changing where they met each month. While the lesbian bar Harigan's has been a usual spot for their meetings, she is encouraging younger members to suggest new, not just LGBT-only venues, like Chima Brazilian Steakhouse. The new board of older and younger people are excited to revamp the guild's image from stuffy to hip.

"Teresa is really invested in trying to include everybody," said Kibiloski. "You don't have to be an older person. You don't have to own a business. You are invited to be a part of the Charlotte Business Guild."

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